Saturday, November 16, 2013

Update part 3 - French racing - Tour en Limousin

After the Tour de Bretagne, we had a slight reshuffling of teams, to be joined by Kirsten Peetoom and Jessie Walker who we picked up at the Tour de Bretagne, after the departure of Clem and Siobhan. With the cars packed and abused to breaking point (literally), we started on our long trip down south to the department of Limousin for our 2nd stage race, the Tour en Limousin. With a one day overnight adventure in a dead French town we somehow made it to the big farm house we were going to be housed for the duration of the Tour en Limousin. The house was big, but it had only 3 bedrooms, so we girls shared with 4 in one room each and Stew got his own lair. The area around Tour en Limousin was another super amazing beautiful part of France. I thought the cute and rough stone house style of Bretagne couldn't be topped, but Limousin was coming close. With a few days off between the area was a perfect training ground with an abundance of tiny roads and climbs and such a picturesque country side. I absolutely loved riding down there. With the heat not abating a bit, we also made extensive use of the lukewarm river flowing at the bottom of the small village. I am also not sure where it started, but there were some water (and other) fights - in locations you would not necessarily expect. That's all I'm going to say about this.

Does my bum look big in this? - Photo credit Caroline Martinez

The Tour en Limousin had a similar stage make up as the Tour de Bretagne: 3 long and hard road stages and one ITT stage. The stages also seem to follow the same pattern as in the Tour de Bretagne: all have a long loop followed by a variable number of repeats of a smaller finishing circuit. Only the bunch was smaller and every team stayed in a different place.

How I got on: My stomach had returned to normal, but my suffering had not. On top of that I had probably the worst day ever on a bike on stage 1 after receiving some news the morning before the stage from home that emotionally made me very upset. I had a really shit day that day and got dropped on a long climb. I had no desire to race. I just tried to pull myself together as much as I could and finished the stage a long way down. Stage 2 ITT was a very technical course with a surprising amount of climb and I finished in the top half. Stages 3 and 4 were again two long road stages, with stage 3 on an uphill finish and stage 4 another blistering hot day, speeding tickets and an unfortunate pidgeon (not during the race, but after, long story for the book). I came in with the bunch on stage 3 and on stage 4 had such bad hot spots on my feet that I was in agony for most of the last hour. I'm a bit frustrated I got dropped from the bunch only 2 km from the finish after making a mistake in a moment of distraction.

Building pyramids - Photo credit Stewart Carr

That was it! The French stage racing survived. But that wasn't the end of our French adventure, we still had a looooong drive ahead of us to the ferry, in our more and more battered team car. Let's just say we made it, with a few tense moments following a flat at 2am in the morning in a completely overloaded car stranded in the middle of nowhere, an ill-fitting spare wheel and popping bolts on the highway...... Anyhow, we even survived this and were greeted back in Ireland with beautiful summer weather, icecream on the bike, nutella in the face and a dip in the sea in Brittas Bay. Sorry to speak in riddles, but I've been sworn to secrecy. Let's just say that France was one hell of a trip with memories that will hopefully last a life-time.

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